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Archive for March, 2009

Disastagne!!!!

I am back once again with this month’s DB challenge. For those who don’t know, it’s been an exciting month for us DB-ers. Our new website has launched and it looks fantastic! Now not only do we have the Daring Bakers, we’ve also got the Daring Cooks. Plus the website has so much stuff on it, it’s mind boggling! :p

March 2009’s challenge is brought to you by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They’ve chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge. I was really excited about his month’s challenge as I’ve never made lasagne from scratch before. All my previous attempts at making lasagne were from using the pre-packed sheets you get off the shelf. But old habits die hard. I was always a last minute student during my high school and uni days, and up till today I still am a last minute person! Up till 9.30pm last night, I was still baking in my kitchen! :p

lasagne

My lasagne was and is a walking, talkin and baking disaster! According to instructions, I had to roll it out really thin but by doing so, I created multiple holes in my lasagne sheets! Some big, some small, they kinda look like the tears I have all over my favourite PJs which I’ve worn since I was 12! I had to hang them to dry on our clothes rack and you should have seen the pieces of dough that kept dropping onto the kitchen floor as the tears got bigger and bigger! Alan was like “Are you sure this is lasagne?! :-/ “. And then came the assembling, gosh it was hard layering “holy” pieces together! Clearly, I was unable to layer 4 layers of nice sheets overlapping each other. I could only settle for bits and pieces here and there and pray that they would be enough to cover each others holes! The result though, was surprising! It smelt really good and filled up the apartment. Alan came back from work slightly before 11pm and decided he was gonna have lasagne for supper! The verdict: YUMMY! Worth the effort but definitely need to work on the presentation! :)

lasagne

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

Ingredients:
10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce
1 recipe Country Style Ragu
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method
Working Ahead:

The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

lasagne

Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)
Preparation: 45 minutes
Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

Ingredients:
2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Method – Working by Hand:

Equipment:

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:
With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

Bechamel
Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Ground cinnamoon, to taste

Method:
Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

Ragu
Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours
Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
60g virginian ham,  finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
250gm veal and pork mince
250g premium beef mince
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:
Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the ham and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Stir rest of the mince and prosciutto into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering:

Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

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It’s been awhile since I last updated this blog. So much has happened I don’t even know where to begin….

And just so you know, this time round, I do have a valid reason for being MIA. Now, for the moment everyone’s been waiting for…*drumroll*….Alan and I relocated to Sydney at the end of Dec 08/early Jan 09! So yes, it’s a big change for both of us as we’ve been in tassie for 6 years and no where will ever feel like home the way tassie has been for us both, especially for me. Tassie is where I discovered myself, where I discovered my passion in life& where I found myself accepted and loved by the ones around me. Tassie will always hold a very special place in my heart and will always be home to me.

Anyway, because of the relocation, we haven’t had internet connection at home since the end of Nov and just getting around to going online has been a real pain! We are still trying to settle the internet and phone line at our new place in Sydney but things are not looking too good so it’s going to be awhile before I can fully update this blog religiously.

Next, I’m really excited to announce that after missing the last 2 challenges, I’m back with Feb’s DB challenge! Gosh! Just slightly short of a year since joining the DBers, I didn’t realise how big a part of my life they’ve become. I’ve been feeling so empty and guilty for missing the last 2 challenges, I told myself that even if it means having to go to an internet café and post feb’s challenge, I’ll do it! Yeah I know I’m a bit late as the dateline as yesterday. But I was at work till really late at night and back again at work at 5am so getting to somewhere with internet access to do this post is a challenge in itself!

Feb’s challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE‘s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. It was exciting just knowing that this month’s challenge is a recipe from non other than my home country’s famous chef – Chef Wan!! Being the month for Valentine’s Day and all, the challenge was meant to be something we could do for our valentine. Well, I’ve never been much of a valentine day celebrator, so I decided that I’ll be making mine for a good friend of mine who celebrated her birthday yesterday! Who said valentines day has to be about lovers. I feel that the greatest love one could have is the love shared with friends who’ve seen you through good and bad times!

choc-ic-cake-6

In line with the theme, I made mine in an 8 inch round cake tin and cut it into a heart shape thereafter. Early this month when Kaye and I went for coffee, she said she hasn’t been successful in finding the “ultimate” chocolate cake here! So, I decided I’m going to give her an overdose of chocolate! Rich, muddy chocolate cake with creamy, gooey dark chocolate ripple ice cream! Yum!! :p Since this is my first time making this cake, and this ice cream, I decided what the heck, I might as well make another first timer – homemade Turkish delight!

choc-ic-cake-2

Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Valentino

Recipe from Sweet Treats by Chef Wan

Ingredients:

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

Method:
1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry). 
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C. 
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

 As for the Turkish delight, I got my recipe from Gastronomy Domine.Being my first time, I didn’t know what to expect and what turned out was simply a delight! Just bear in mind though, when you remove the TD from the fridge it’ll be really hard and difficult to chew. Once it’s been left at room temperature for a while, you’ve got yourself yummy Narnia like TDs! :p

turkish-delight-2

Turkish Delight

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
2  1/4 cups water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup cornflour 
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (this stops the mixture from crystalising)
1/2 tbsp essence of rose water
1/2 cup icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar for Americans)
1/8 cup extra cornflour

Method:

1. Boil the sugar with the lemon juice and 3/4 cups of water. Use a jam thermometer and remove from the heat when the syrup reaches the soft ball stage (115C).

2. While you are boiling the sugar syrup, combine the cream of tartar and a cup of cornflour with 1.5 cups of cold water. (Using cold water should prevent lumps.) Mix well and bring up to a simmer, stirring all the time. Continue stirring at a simmer until the mixture has made a thick, gluey paste. Stir the sugar syrup into this paste. (If you end up with lumps at this stage, push everything into a saucepan through a sieve with the back of a ladle.)

3. Simmer the sugar and cornflour mixture, stirring every few minutes, until it’s a golden-honey colour and about 120C (this is halfway between soft and hard ball on your jam thermometer, and will take about an hour).

4. Divide the mixture into two, and pour it into prepared trays lined with oiled cling film. I used a small tupperware as I wanted turkish delights with a bit of height to them and found that with my trays they were really flat.

5. Add rose water and a few drops of pink food colouring and stir. Cover and chill for a few hours until set.

6. Turn it out and slice the set Turkish Delight into cubes, and roll in a mixture of 1/2 cup icing sugar and 1/8 cup cornflour so that they don’t stick together. Store in airtight boxes between layers of greaseproof paper, well-dusted with the icing sugar/cornflour mixture.

turkish-delight-3

As for my amazing Chocolate Ripple Ice Cream, I got it off The Ice Cream Book by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis. In my hastiness I forgot to take a photo of the finish tub of ice cream, and when I opened the freezer today, all that greeted me was a miserable one scoop left in the tub! Obviously, it wasn’t picture worthy, so you’ll all just have to take my word that it was sensational and use your imagination to picture the final product! :)

Chocolate Ripple Ice Cream

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks

75g castor sugar

1 tsp cornflour

300ml semi-skimmed milk

250g dark bitter chocolate

25g butter, diced

2 tbsp golden syrup

90 ml single cream

200 ml whipping cream

Method:

1. Combine egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl and whisk till thick and foamy. 

2. Heat milk to just boiling and gradually add to yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

3. Return mixture to pan and cook over gentle heat, stirring constantly until custard thickens and is smooth. 

4. Pour it into a bowl and stir in 150g of chocolate  till melted. Cover, leave to cool then chill. 

5. Melt remaining chocolate with butter in a saucepan. Add in golden syrup. Heat gently, stirring until chocolate and butter have melted.

6. Stir in single cream. Heat gently, stirring until smooth, then leave to cool.

7. In an ice cream maker, stir the cream into the custard and churn the mixture till thick. 

8. Add alternate spoonfuls of chocolate sauce and ice cream into a plastic tub and freeze for at least 5-6 hours. 

choc-ic-cake-7

 

 

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